Government has extended the water licence application transition period for those who were using groundwater on or before February 29, 2016 for any non-domestic use, including agricultural, industrial, commercial and institutional groundwater uses. Applicants now have until March 1, 2022 to apply for a licence.
Because of the importance of a groundwater licence in ensuring sustainable access to water, government has decided to provide additional time to apply for a water licence by extending both the transition period and the application fee waiver period.
On February 29, 2016 the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) came into force, modernizing British Columbia’s legislative framework governing the allocation and use of water and protection of aquatic ecosystems. The then new law brought in a requirement for agricultural, industrial, commercial and institutional groundwater users to obtain a water licence.
When the WSA came into force, an estimated 20,000 users who were using groundwater up to and on February 29, 2016 were anticipated to apply for a water licence. However, the application intake has been lower than expected and for many groundwater users, recognizing the value of a licence to secure their water rights represents a significant change.
Existing use groundwater applications can now be submitted until March 1, 2022.
It is important to note that groundwater users who apply under the transition provisions of the WSA are required to pay annual water rentals retroactive to February 29, 2016 to ensure equity for those who applied early. The longer one delays application, the larger the retroactive total rental payment owed.
Applicants who were using groundwater on and before February 29, 2016 who apply before March 1, 2022 will continue to enjoy the following benefits:
- exemption from paying application fees,
- opportunity to receive a date of precedence on their water licence that reflects historic use, and
- ability to continue using water until a decision on the licence application is made.
All existing well owners who were using groundwater on and before February 29, 2016 for non-household use (e.g. agricultural, industrial, commercial and institutional), are encouraged to apply for a water licence as soon as possible.
For information on how to apply or to submit an application please visit groundwater.gov.bc.ca.